Pharmacists can save province millions: report

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The Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL) says its members in this province make up a group of licenced health-care professionals who are not being used to their full potential.

Greg Batt

The group’s members are looking for an expanded role in health-care delivery.

On Tuesday, PANL released a report —  The Pharmacist Option: Leveraging Newfoundland and Labrador’s Pharmacists for Cost-Effective Health Care Delivery — that says broadening pharmacists’ scope of practice in key areas could save taxpayers about $165 million.

“There are basic medical services and procedures that could be performed by pharmacists safely and effectively,” said PANL president, Greg Batt.

“For example, pharmacists can identify and treat minor ailments, administer vaccinations, conduct medication reviews, and much more. By doing so, we would see improved access for patients to vital health care services and relieve pressure on family physicians, resulting in more effective and efficient use of health-care resources and significant cost savings for the provincial government.”

PANL says it can help make a difference by decreasing medical clinic and emergency room waiting times; increasing access to vital health-care services for patients; improving quality of care and quality of life for patients.

In their current role, PANL says pharmacists’ interactions with patients are focused mainly on the dispensing of prescription medications and ensuring they are administered safely and effectively.

“The provincial government has said that they are reinvesting $37 million in the pharmacy profession over the next four years, but have only identified a small portion of that amount. In the Pharmacist Option document, we have identified and subsequently communicated at a recent meeting with government areas of significant savings, of at least $165 million that can lead to better health-care delivery for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

 According to the report, several other jurisdictions have already expanded pharmacists’ scope of practice, resulting in measurable benefits for health care, governments and patients — Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan.

It says a 2012 survey of PANL members found a significant majority of pharmacists are open to this idea.

“It is time for this province to take a leadership role in expanding pharmacists’ scope of practice, resulting in improved care for patients,” Stephen Reid, executive director of PANL said.

 PANL says it can save the province millions of dollars in the following ways:

•    $33.1 million in health-care costs related to medication adherence;  

•    $1.1 million in health-care costs if pharmacists can do immunizations;

•    $79 million in health-care costs due to minor ailments;

•    $1.1 million in costs related to pharmacist-monitored diabetes testing;

•   $52 million in health-care costs due to tobacco-related illnesses.

Geographic location: Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick Nova Scotia Ontario

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